What are express lanes?
Express lanes can best be described as an ‘expressway-within-an-expressway’. At this time, FDOT is proposing additional lanes be constructed along the inside median of the interstate (I-295). These new lanes will be tolled using variable pricing based on congestion. Motorists will have plenty of time to decide whether to pay the toll or use the general use lanes
Who will own the express lanes and maintain them?
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will own and operate all aspects of the express lanes.
When will the first express lanes be constructed in Northeast Florida?
FDOT is planning on receiving bids from contractors on the first of two express lanes projects in the Five-Year Work Program (I-295 from I-95 to the Buckman Bridge) in 2014. Construction should be completed and the first express lanes will open in 2017.
Duval County voted to remove all tolls in favor of a half a percent increase on the sales tax. Why are tolls coming back?
The previous tolls located on Interstate 95, the Arlington and Hart expressways and J. Turner Butler Boulevard were enacted by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA). When JTA was established by state statute in 1955 (as the Jacksonville Expressway Authority), their first mission was to build and expand the expressway system through the greater Jacksonville area. In 1971 at the City of Jacksonville’s request, they added mass transit to their list of responsibilities.
In 1988, again at the city’s request, JTA agreed to remove its toll booths in exchange for receiving a voter-approved transportation sales surtax of one-half of one percent on taxable sales in Duval County. This sales surtax revenue has been put to work by JTA to build roads and bridges in Duval County, to fund mass transit and to plan and design the future transportation facilities which have and will make possible the efficient movement of people and freight in and through Duval County and the surrounding counties.
For FDOT, the existing revenue from the gas tax and other revenue sources are not enough to keep up with the demand of transportation and infrastructure. The express lane tolls will only be added to new construction on existing roadways and not to the existing lanes. Motorists will have a choice to pay the toll or use the general use lanes.
All roadway improvements paid for by the sales tax will remain free.
Will all vehicles have to pay a toll to use the express lanes?
All vehicles including buses, motorcycles and high-occupancy vehicles will pay to use the express lanes.
What will the toll rate be?
The toll rate for the North Florida Express Lanes has yet to be determined. Fee schedules to use express lanes are normally developed in the late stages of planning.
Florida currently has one express lane operating at this time, the Miami I-95 Express Lane. The average trip rates on these lanes are 10 cents per mile during off-peak times and 24 cents per mile at peak times. The typical minimum charge is 25 cents per toll segment.
How will the tolls be calculated?
The toll rate will be based on the changing levels of traffic in the express lanes. Sensors alongside the road will monitor traffic levels and speed. Toll prices will be adjusted to maintain free-flowing traffic with a minimum target speed of 45 miles per hour in the express lanes.
How will I pay the tolls?
Tolls will be collected using a fully automated system called SunPass. Traffic will be able to move at full speed through a tolled area and automatically deduct the tolls using a transponder that has been attached to the front windshield of someone’s car. Funds must be added to the transponder account using cash, check, money order or credit card. There will be no toll booths.
How will I know ahead of time what the toll will be so I can decide whether to use the lanes?
Before all express lane entrances, there will be electronic message signs showing the current toll price so you can choose to use the express lanes or travel the general use lanes.
Will the tolls change while I am in the lane?
No. Once you enter the express lanes, your toll rate will be locked in. You will only be charged based on that rate and the distance you travel in the express lanes.
How will you maintain free-flowing conditions in the express lanes?
The express lanes will use variable pricing to manage the number of toll-paying customers in the lanes and keep them free flowing.
With a similar facility in Florida, the Miami I-95 Express lanes, the peak hour speeds have increased from 20 miles per hour to 40 miles per hour in the general use lanes and 60 miles per hour in the Express Lanes.
Will the lanes be tolled 24 hours-a-day?
Yes, tolls will always be in effect.
Does anyone get to go for free?
There are only a few exemptions provided in state law:
- State military personnel while on official military business,
- Certain handicapped persons,
- Law enforcement officers when on official law enforcement business,
- Persons operating a fire vehicle or rescue vehicle when on official business
- Persons participating in a funeral procession of a law enforcement officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty, or
- When the tolls are suspended to assist in an emergency evacuation.
What happens to the revenue generated by tolls?
Revenues from the express lanes will generally be used to operate and maintain the roadway where the toll is collected. Excess revenues may be generated in the future and will be used on transportation projects in the northeast Florida area.
Will large trucks be allowed to use the express lanes?
No. Large trucks will not be allowed to use the express lanes between the Buckman Bridge and Interstate 95. Other future Interstate 295 express lanes may allow trucks based on demand studies. However, trucks will enjoy less congestion and higher speeds in the general use lanes.
Can I use my motorcycle on the express lanes?
Yes. Motorcycles will be allowed to use the express lanes with a SunPass.
Can mass transit buses use the express lanes?
Yes. The express lanes will provide predictable travel times for the JTA vehicles and assist JTA in developing bus rapid transit. The toll rates, likely a fixed yearly fee, have not yet been determined.
Where will the express lanes be built?
FDOT has two projects on Interstate 295 in their Five Year Work Program where express lanes will be implemented. These segments are from the Buckman Bridge to I-95 and from State Road 9B to J. Turner Butler Boulevard.
How will the building of these new lanes be funded?
The funding of the initial construction of the express lanes will come from various sources including traditional gas tax revenue.
Does everyone who uses the express lanes need a SunPass?
Yes. You must pay for tolls using a SunPass. There will be no toll booths or Toll-by-Plate. All transponders issued by Florida toll operators may be used on the express lanes (i.e. MDX, OOCEA, etc.)
What will happen if I use the express lanes without a SunPass?
A letter will be sent to you explaining the proper way to use the express lanes and request payment for the tolls including a fine or penalty.
How can I obtain a SunPass?
You can purchase a SunPass by going online to www.sunpass.com
. If you would prefer to purchase one from a local retailer, go to Publix, CVS Pharmacy or AAA Auto Club South. There are options for purchasing a SunPass without having to use a credit card.
How will the lanes be enforced?
Law enforcement will enforce the lanes with the help of technology.
If you don’t have a SunPass, roadside equipment will capture an image of your license plate and an invoice will be mailed requesting payment for the tolls including a fine or penalty.
Is there a statute that allows FDOT to build toll roads?
Yes. Statute 338.151 states,
“338.151 Authority of the department to establish tolls on the State Highway System.—Notwithstanding s. 338.165(8), the department may establish tolls on new limited access facilities on the State Highway System, lanes added to existing limited access facilities on the State Highway System, new major bridges on the State Highway System over waterways, and replacements for existing major bridges on the State Highway System over waterways to pay, fully or partially, for the cost of such projects. Except for high-occupancy vehicle lanes, express lanes, the turnpike system, and as otherwise authorized by law, the department may not establish tolls on lanes of limited access facilities that exist on July 1, 2012, unless tolls were in effect for the lanes prior to that date. The authority provided in this section is in addition to the authority provided under the Florida Turnpike Enterprise Law and s. 338.166. History.—s. 22, ch. 2012-128; s. 41, ch. 2012-174.”